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Grand Circus

Ever wondered what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

The professional and personal challenges, the high and lows, the failures and the success?

Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. It is the largest community of passionate entrepreneurs with over 1800 past events in 120 countries around the world in 2014.

The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world. From Mongolia to South Africa to London to Brazil, people around the globe are coming together for weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies.

All Startup Weekend events follow the same basic model: anyone is welcome to pitch their startup idea and receive feedback from their peers. Teams organically form around the top ideas (as determined by popular vote) and then it’s a 54 hour frenzy of business model creation, coding, designing, and market validation. The weekends culminate with presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with another opportunity for critical feedback.

Whether entrepreneurs found companies, find a cofounder, meet someone new, or learn a skill far outside their usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave the event better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of startups. If you want to put yourself in the shoes of an entrepreneur, register now for the best weekend of your life!



Nov 15
  • Registration Starts
  • Dinner & Networking
  • Welcome & Speakers
  • Pitches Start
  • Attendees vote for the top ideas
  • Teams start forming and discussing ideas
  • Start to formalize teams and take an inventory of skills. Be honest, and direct about what resources and skills are needed for the weekend. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Nov 16
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Teams formed and setting up workspace for the weekend
  • Coaches arrive and learn more about the teams
  • Lunch
  • Call for needs & skills
  • Coaches help teams one-on-one. They are here to help!
  • Dinner
  • Mid weekend check-in, status reports, call for help
  • Finished for the day. You may stay and work as late as the venue will allow


Nov 17
  • Arrive, simple breakfast & coffee
  • Call for help (this is self motivated, so don’t be shy)
  • Lunch
  • Coaches arrive… ASK QUESTIONS
  • Tech check starts!
  • Gut check. Start prepping for presentations
  • Dinner
  • Judging & awards
  • Wrapup
  • Go home!
Platinum Sponsors
Gold Sponsors
Silver Sponsors
Media Sponsors

Amanda Chocko

Community Relations, Start Garden   |  

Amanda is a true New Yorker-straight forward with a bit of sass. With a past in business incubator & accelerator management, program development, event planning and marketing, she joins the Start Garden team recruiting startups, expanding our network, and working with our sponsors. Amanda’s past projects with Rick include Momentum and 5×5 Night. An entrepreneur at heart, she has launched a number of her own ventures and has over 15 years of entrepreneurial and business management experience. You can usually find Amanda at various events around town or in her basement doing P90X. She is also a co-organizer of Startup Weekend West Michigan.

Erik Torenberg


A University of Michigan alum, Erik is the CEO and Co-founder of His work has been featured in BBC, Forbes, Fox, Tech Crunch, Fast Company, Village Voice, and Vice among other outlets. Otherwise, he writes, reads, raps, and hosts weekly hip-hop cyphers and monthly book clubs.

Adam Bratt

Head Developer,

Adam is the Head Developer for, the first ever curated & verified Marketplace for everything trading. currently supports more than 30,000 members. Previously, Adam founded and grew web studio to 100+ clients in 3 years. With his work, he has created a network of viral image sites with over 150 million page views to date.


Maria LaLonde

Recruiting and Development Leader at Bizdom   |   LinkedIn

Maria LaLonde is the Recruiting and Development Leader for Bizdom, a startup accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch, fund and grow innovative web and tech-based startups in Detroit and Cleveland. Bizdom is a nonprofit that was founded by Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and general partner at Detroit Venture Partners.

Maria’s role at Bizdom is to raise awareness about Bizdom in the community and vet candidates for our accelerator. She also advocates for the startup community, mentors and connects entrepreneurs to available resources. Maria is a serial entrepreneur that has founded businesses in the recruiting, automotive and real estate industries. She has a BA in Communication from Michigan State University. Maria is a native Detroiter and is passionate about creating a vibrant and thriving startup community in Detroit and Michigan.

Paul Czarnik

CTO, Compuware   |   LinkedIn

Paul Czarnik is the Chief Technology Officer at Compuware and a Venture Technologist looking for disruptive entrepreneurs and programmers who have great ideas and the motivation to see them to business success. He loves technology due-diligence and helps entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs scale their enterprises. He is currently focusing on big-data analytics, mobility, tablets, cloud, and augmented reality. He has founded two startups and is always looking for ways to create disruptive technology. Because of his background in medical software, he is especially interested in applications that will reduce cost, improve caregiver productivity, and empower patients. Paul is also a former Startup Weekend attendee and coach.

Brad Hoos

Co-Founder, Grand Circus

Bradley Hoos is the co-Founder of Grand Circus, an inspired learning institute for both startups and corporations alike. In addition to delivering programming focused on learning, Grand Circus operates a co-working facility and event space that is home to the Detroit tech and entrepreneurial community. Recently, Google selected Grand Circus as one of its seven tech hub partners in North America.

Brad has been involved in starting a number of businesses - both inside the structure of existing organizations and "in the wild". Brad's experience as an engineer allows him to understand and apply technology in the start-up world. His passion is creating new ways to make a meaningful difference in people's everyday lives. In addition to working with countless start-ups, he has worked with leading technology organizations globally including Accenture, Red Hat, Caterpillar, and USAA. Brad holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a BS and MS in Engineering from Michigan State University and the University of Iowa.

Nick Pudar

Director, GM Developer Ecosystem

Nick Pudar, Director, GM Developer Ecosystem, is leading the efforts to enable a new range of connectivity solutions for vehicles, and to engage with the developer community with a comprehensive set of assets and processes to drive third party innovation.

Prior to this, Nick was Vice President of Business Development at GM’s OnStar subsidiary, where he had responsibility for future services development and for the new business portfolio.

Nick also led GM’s Global Planning activity, as well as directing GM Strategic Initiatives, an internal strategic consulting team.

Nick is an avid magician and routinely applies those principles in his approach to designing new products and services and managing innovation. He is also deeply engaged in photography.

Nick received his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University, and his Masters of Science in Management degree from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Meredith C. Kerekes

Growth & Innovation Strategist   |   LinkedInGoogle+

Meredith is passionate about emerging businesses - how they succeed and how they grow. She has worked with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurially-minded executives and organizations for over ten years in New York, Los Angeles and Detroit with her namesake consultancy. She crafts growth and innovation strategies for startups through Fortune 500 corporations, as well as the stakeholders, investors and communities that support them.

Recent work includes domestic and international projects with the US Department of State, US Department of Commerce - Commercial Law Development Program, Aspen Institute, Atlantic Council, Wayne State University, TechTown Detroit and the Detroit Creative Corridor Center. Meredith is also co-founder of Detroit-based boutique branding agency, the Grey Label Group. For more information, please visit


Jon Gagnon

President at ReelBig

Jon Gagnon is President at ReelBig, a mobile gaming startup with offices in Plymouth, MI. Jon has been in the game industry for over 10 years, starting his career at Microsoft on the original Xbox, and has participated at early stage tech startups since 2009. Jon holds a degree in Applied Arts of 3D Animation from Digipen Institute of Technology.

Jason Raznick

CEO, Benzinga and

Jason is a passionate entrepreneur and the founder of Benzinga, a financial media company based out of Metro Detroit. He founded two successful Internet companies prior to Benzinga. In the first five months, Benzinga grew to over 50k active members. Benzinga currently serves over 3 million readers in over 125 countries each month. Jason has been quoted throughout the media in places such as CNBC, Fox Business, NPR and Wall Street Journal.

Jeff Epstein

Founder and Chief Ambassador, Ambassador

Jeff is the founder of @getAmbassador (formerly @zferral), a social referral software for businesses. He built a startup in law school, sold it (still graduated & passed the bar), and never looked back.

A lifelong entrepreneur, he is a 2011 NYC TechStar and has a ninja-like backhand in ping pong.

Henry Balanon

Co-Founder and CTO, Protean Payment   |  

Henry is the Co-Founder and CTO of Protean. The company is creating the Echo Card, the next-generation payment card.

Henry has passion for startups, technology, culture, and people. Previously, he co-founded Detroit Labs, a mobile app company funded by Detroit Venture Partners. He’s also worked at Bickbot as well as Cynergy Systems and Lockheed Martin in Washington DC.

He was born in Philadelphia. Raised in Detroit. Refined in Michigan State University. He lives in Metro Detroit with his wife Angela and daughter Charlotte.

Daniel Jefferies

Founder and CEO, Newmind Group, Inc.   |  

Daniel founded Newmind Group, Inc. in 2003. Newmind is on a mission to make work more profitable, productive and enjoyable for our clients by working with their IT departments to provide IT services that are reliable and a joy to use.

Daniel was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has served on the State of Michigan 21st Century Advisory Council as well as the Board of StartupZoo.

Dave Anderson

Co-founder of Bamboo Detroit   |  

Dave Anderson is a tech entrepreneur with a strong background in electrical engineering, program management and finance. He’s a co-founder of Bamboo Detroit, a popular members-only co-working space in Downtown Detroit and the Founder & CEO of Health Crunch, a mobile startup using predictive analytics to suggest healthy eating alternatives in real-time. Dave sits on the board of the Detroit Historical Museum, enjoys serving the community through youth mentorship and entrepreneurial growth initiatives, and is a University of Michigan graduate.

Paul Chambers

CEO and Founder, Core3 Solutions

An entrepreneur since fifth grade, Paul Chambers is the CEO and Founder of Core3 Solutions, a digital marketing agency and managed IT solutions provider in Southeastern Michigan. In addition to his daily duties at Core3, Paul is involved in a number of start-up's and early growth stage companies that range from online proposal software to mobile auto dealership marketing and even healthcare consulting and advocacy. Paul has been recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as a 20 In Their 20’s. In his spare time Paul loves to spend time with his wife and three year-old twin daughters.

Rolande Mbatchou

CEO of Newbble

Rolande Mbatchou is the Founder & CEO of, a social network that provides early-stage entrepreneurs with an engaged community to grow their startup ideas from scratch! Rolande is a Startup Weekend Winner (Paris, France) and lead Newbble to be featured in Forbes and Techcrunch. She has a background in Software Design & Architecture, Lean Startup, Business Modeling, and Big Data Analytics.

Rolande has mentored many startups on how to grow their ideas, acquire customers, and obtain startup funding. She coached startup teams at Roosevelt University and lead them to win top prizes. She is passionate about helping aspiring entrepreneurs launch their ideas and has authored multiple e-Books for startups, including “How To Prepare For & Win a Hackathon!”

Rolande was born and raised in France. She completed her education at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematical Sciences and Honors Finance.

Drakia Wilkins

VP of Business Development and Co-Founder of

Drakia Wilkins is the VP of Business Development and Co-Founder of, a social network that provides early-stage entrepreneurs with an engaged community to grow their startup ideas from scratch!

Drakia has a background in Commercial Real Estate, where she has mastered business development, sales, networking, and business pitching. She uses these valuable skills to further the businesses relationships and public relations for Newbble. Drakia enjoys pitching in front of large audiences and has coached groups on pitching and preparing for public speaking engagements. She also co authored an e-Book, “How to Launch Your Startup Idea…From Scratch!”

Drakia was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She graduated High School from the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe. She relocated to Chicago, where she earned her B.S. in Real Estate from DePaul University and M.S. in Real Estate from Roosevelt University. Within the next 20 years, Drakia looks forward to returning to Detroit to contribute to the revitalization and re-development of the city through
innovative ideas in both tech and real estate.

Ken Wohl

Head of Growth/User Acquisition @ and

Ken Wohl heads up growth and user acquisition for Prior to working at Benzinga, Ken co-founded Smore Marketing Group which provided growth marketing to top 1,000 media sites. He's been involved in web startups since college where he co-founded his first company,, which was later acquired. He's a strong supporter of everything Detroit and follows the Detroit Tigers closer than Mike Illitch.

Ryan Abbott

Principal at Lateral Ventures   |  

Ryan is a Michigan native having lived in Chicago, Miami, and Palo Alto after graduating from Michigan State University. Recently married he returned to Michigan where he currently resides, in Birmingham. Ryan is passionate about solving problems in typically 'un-sexy' industries. He's founded two startups, taking one through Y Combinator in the summer of 2011 raising $5M+ to advance Scientific Research World Wide. Ryan's expertise lies within the design and development of web and mobile applications and outside the box thinking. If not at his desk, you'll find Ryan at a CrossFit gym near you.

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Heather Macdonald
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